University of Missouri Defensive Lineman Michael Sam announced he is openly gay on ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Feb. 9. Sam, the co-South Eastern Conference defensive player of the year became the first openly gay college football player in history.
According to ESPN’s analyst Mel Kiper Jr., Sam will still be drafted in the first four rounds of the NFL draft despite his announcement. Sam originally came out to teammates and coaches in Aug.
Junior Ben Danielson came out in high school, but as an incoming freshman on the soccer team, he had new obstacles to conquer. Danielson said making the announcement to teammates is trying.
“I’m lucky enough to say that I came into college out,” said Danielson. “I didn’t feel compelled to tell my team, nor did I make it my job to hide myself. I was just me. I had thought about coming out to them during certain meetings, but in the end I was too scared that I might make some of my teammates uncomfortable or somehow offend them.”
OWU President Rock Jones said collegiate athletic programs should accept all athletes regardless of sexual orientation.
“All of the members institutions of the NCAC have non-discrimination statements that include sexual orientation as a form of discrimination that will not be accepted or tolerated on their campuses” said Jones.
“This commitment extends to all aspects of the campus, including athletics programs. Our athletics programs welcome all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or identity, and we at Ohio Wesleyan will not accept or tolerate any form of discrimination or mistreatment directed toward openly gay athletes. This is consistent with the values of OWU, and these values are shared by all of the member institutions of the NCAC.”
In 2013, NBA Forward Jason Collins announced he was gay and became the first openly gay professional athlete.
As expected, Collins received a slew of encouragement with a fair share of backlash from the NBA community.
OWU Athletic Director Roger Ingles said gay athletes are breaking discrimination barriers that will improve sports as a whole.
“I think the challenge for all of us in collegiate athletics is to make our programs a welcoming and loving environment that supports, respects and accepts individual rights and differences in all team members,” said Ingles.
“Gay athletes are beginning to feel more comfortable in most team sports sharing their sexual orientation. I would like to think it is because as a society we are becoming more accepting of our differences in all areas like race, religion and sexual orientation. And that is a great thing.”